Kuwait Work Ban for Filipinos is Now Permanent
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Sunday that the ban on Filipino workers from going to Kuwait is now permanent, intensifying diplomatic tensions between the Southeast Asian country and the oil-rich Persian Gulf nation.
The ban first took effect in February following the murder of a Filipina domestic helper in Kuwait, whose body was later found stuffed in a freezer. The conflict was further aggravated on Wednesday when Kuwaiti authorities expelled Manila’s ambassadors to the Gulf nation after videos of Filipino embassy staff helping domestic workers in Kuwait escape allegedly abusive employers surfaced.
In response, Filipino authorities have called Kuwait’s actions “deeply disturbing,” claiming Kuwait to have “reneged” on earlier agreements to cooperate.
Up until that incident, the two nations had been involved in negotiations to lift the ban. Kuwait, though frequently the target of Duterte’s heavy criticism, is heavily reliant on Filipina maids and nannies.
“The ban stays permanently,” said Duterte in a news briefing in the southern city of Davao. “There will be no more recruitment for especially domestic helpers. No more.”
According to the Philippines’ foreign department, there are currently an estimated 262,000 Filipino nationals working in Kuwait, with nearly 60 percent of them domestic workers.
Though Duterte has labelled the whole situation a “calamity,” he added that he would allow Filipino workers to remain in Kuwait should they wish to do so. “For the household workers whose employers want them to stay, that is their choice, but choose the better option,” Duterte said. “All I ask is that the employers treat the Filipinos with the humanity they deserve.”
However, he also asked the Filipino workers in Kuwait to strongly consider returning to the Southeast Asian country and assured them that the government would be committed to helping them resettle.
"I would like to address to their patriotism: come home. No matter how poor we are, we will survive. The economy is doing good and we are short of our workers," he said.
Duterte also added that workers returning from Kuwait can find employment as English teachers in China. Describing the Asian economic powerhouse as a “true friend," Duterte said that he intends to use Beijing’s economic aid to fund the workers’ repatriation.